Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Do we really need workbooks in this day and age?

Sitting on our bookshelves at home, going dusty, are piles of very expensive workbooks. Some of them, completed, the gold stars proof that this or that kid completed the book. They seemed to understand it at the time. What absolutely amazes me is how quickly they forget it afterwards. Finn completed loads of writing workbooks back in the early days of our homeschooling, only for me to realise much later what an utter waste of time they were. What lesson did Finn really learn whilst doing them? To complete them to keep me happy? To learn a trick, and do it over and over again? In that respect, he was an A+ student!

Now I am not about to suggest that workbooks are always a waste of time.

Or that they are always a waste of money.

I'm sure they can sometimes help consolidate knowledge.

But are they, on the whole, all that helpful? Do they add real value to a child's education? Are they absolutely vital to learning?

Or have we just got used to the idea that this is how kids learn?

Maybe we need to re-view the actual value of them.

I get the arguments for:

They help the adult keep track of where a child is at so they can scaffold and tailor the child's learning.

They introduce concepts one at a time.

They are repetitive which supposedly helps solidify that knowledge, making it concrete.

Kids love stickers.

Even better if they get a gold star so they can feel all wowed by just how clever they really are.

Woop woop.

And in my moments of desperation to conform and make things appear schooly, above board, tip-top and 'proper', I've succumbed to the Carol Vorderman-endorsed, branded type of workbook - in fact spent a small fortune on such shiny looking and reassuring books.

Now I'm not saying they have no value at all, or that these books can't ever be useful.

But..... consider this.

Kids are smart. Sometimes they're smart in an out-smarting workbooks kind of way. Sometimes they just find this kind of stuff really f'ing boring, and who can blame them?

Is there something better?

Well multi-media programmes are often more fun, and teach the same kind of information.

Great examples of these are the Cluefinders series

and here's a little video the kids told me to include here, from Cluefinders 3, which is a bit Sgt. Peppers

Next up is the really wonderful Zoombinis

..... which Finn is animatedly describing to me as I write! (20 minutes later he's still raving about it) 
He describes Zoombinis as "more fun and educational than workbooks because they're on a computer and the characters talk to you and it's exciting doing the adventures and it really captures the imagination"

Nessy is anther game the kids love, this one is for teaching dyslexic children how to spell etc... 
Look out for their iphone/ipad app in the itunes stores.

Herbie says "Nessy is a great game of spelling, puzzles and different sort of stuff that is really fun. One of my favourite games on Nessy is the vampire game, where you have to choose the right words to fill in the blanks. It's really adventurous and a a tinsy wincy bit scary!!!"

Alf says "I love Nessy, it's so cute!"

Last and by no means least, for primary aged kids, The 'Land of Me' is just ridiculously cute and awesome, and uses the simple premise of giving you three different choices within different game scenarios, each with fun consequences! Check out this trailer if you have been living under a rock and haven't heard of it yet!

Likey like? You can watch more here: Land Of Me

Alf loves the Land of Me so much that he has walked in and seen me writing about this and I'm now being kicked off the computer so he can play it for real. Psssst by the way, the ipad/iphone app for this game is free!!!

What do you think anyway m'dears?

Are workbooks dead?


  1. Oh boy do I hear you mama, I spent much of the summer ordering lovely shiny workbooks, putting them neatly on our learning shelf..and there they still sit. Charlie has shown no interest in them as yet as he prefers the virtual world on the PC. Thanks for sharing those sites, I havent seen them before and am sure charlie would love to have a look :)

  2. Kids wanted to play Cluefinders today after i wrote that post yesterday, they'd forgotten about it for a while, since discovering minecraft, which has blown everything out of the water for them!

  3. Thanks MF, love this post. I still have you in the 'more advanced' camp that you have the time and experience to know where to look for cool stuff to do. I'm glad you've shared them on here and I will return when I feel the need for some new places to try out. I totally agree with what you found in the workbook world, whilst it was nice to buy them once, they haven't come out of the drawers much! How exciting that our kids are feasting upon life to grow and learn :) yey!

  4. I've been home edding since my first boy was born 11 years ago so have had a lot of time to learn about this stuff!